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The Dumbest App In The World Just Made Itself Pretty Useful

The new Yo: Smart, curated push notifications.

The Dumbest App In The World Just Made Itself Pretty Useful

At first glance, it seemed like a joke. Or rather, it was a joke. When a little app called Yo launched last summer, its hyper-simple functionality left most people intrigued, amused, or annoyed: All Yo does is send and receive messages containing only the word “yo.” What’s the point?

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As it turns out, something kind of actually pretty cool.

Eight months after bewildering the tech world, Yo is getting a substantial revamp, according to TechCrunch. Today, the startup launched the Yo Store, a repository of branded channels that let you subscribe to notifications of your choosing. Want to know when an item on Product Hunt gets 500 upvotes? Yo will tell you. Need to know whenever there’s a new listing under a certain search term on Craigslist? Don’t worry about it, yo.


The new Yo effectively serves as a delivery mechanism for smart, curated push notifications, which is pretty handy in this age of notification overload. By allowing you to pick and choose specific triggers for notifications, Yo gives you more granular control than these individual apps would. Sure, I can get a notification anytime somebody likes my photo on Instagram. But what if I want to know every time my favorite photographer posts a new image? Yo will let me know. Instagram won’t.

There are 150 Yo channels in all: Publishers like BuzzFeed and USA Today. Social apps like Twitter and Instagram. Services like IFTTT and Product Hunt. Real-life stuff like finding your parked car or tracking a UPS package. You can even get a Yo of the United States. There are all kinds of useful things you can now do with Yo, as opposed to before, when you could only do one decidedly stupid thing.

Another perk: By routing these notifications through the Yo Store, Yo eliminates the need for you to have each of these individual apps installed on your device. Maybe you want to keep track of what’s popular on Hacker News or see new videos from MTV, but you don’t necessarily want to eat up space with dedicated native apps for those things. That’s what this is for.

In a lot of ways, it’s reminiscent of IFTTT and its system of channels and recipes for building logic between apps and even devices. But Yo is more focused and less customizable. Unlike IFTTT, Yo won’t let you roll your own custom notifications. In fact, Yo is safeguarding the app’s user experience by being pretty picky about what services can get on board: Only those that agree to send high-quality, infrequent alerts or ones users specifically requested get a spot in the Yo store. This keeps one Yo source from pissing in everyone else’s pool and driving users away.

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It’s not just a matter of good UX–something that’s even more sensitive than usual when it comes to push notifications–it’s a matter of life or death. Yo’s founder is reportedly shy about sharing precise numbers, but there’s no way the app has retained anything close to the 3.5 million users it had at the peak of its tech press hype spike. Still, if anything is going to build those numbers back up, actually being remotely useful just might be the trick.

[via TechCrunch]

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About the author

John Paul Titlow is a writer at Fast Company focused on music and technology, among other things.

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